A week in the sun…?

Serignan Plage 21-27 April

Drove down from Avignon towards Beziers heading towards our pre-booked week by the beach at another Yelloh! Village site, Serignan-Plage. Forecast was good for a week in the sun.

Having reached the coast we were now struggling to find somewhere without a height barrier to stop to make lunch and at 2pm gave up and paid €6 for an Aire de Camping Car we saw signposted at Marseillan. We could have stayed for 24hrs for that price but were booked in at Serignan otherwise we might have, just to experience it. Our first experience of an Aire de Camping Car, it was essentially a large car park full of motorhomes that also offers a ‘motorhome point’ – a drainage area where toilet waste and grey water waste can be disposed and a source of fresh drinking water to fill up with. Busy at this time of year and near to the resort, we dreaded to think what it was like at the height of summer.

After lunch we drove on, stopping again at the large out-of-town retail park at Villeneuve de Beziiers to do a Carrefour shop. We were delighted to see a camping accessories store too and couldn’t resist some small, necessary purchases.

Arriving at the Yelloh! Site we were surprised to see security, until we realised that part of the site – and the beach – was for naturists. We drove for 5 minutes round this huge site, with its lagoons, tennis courts, and avenues with their mix of permanent cabins and tented cabins, and touring pitches with tents, motorhomes and caravans, to our allocated ‘comfort’ pitch with10A electric, grey-water disposal and fresh water supply.

The sun was out and although we had thankfully lost the Mistral, there was a breeze so we put out the windbreak, set up our pitch, and settled down to soak up an hour of afternoon sun.

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We had never been on a site like this – big, modern with great facilities but also with ‘entertainment’ which thankfully had not started properly. It had it’s own little supermarket, butchers, fish shop, bakery and Tourist Information. Two restaurants, take aways,  and 3 bars. There were bikes available to residents for a deposit which most people seemed to use to get about on, and kayaks. The beach was just 150yds from our van through a gap in the low dunes. A huge outdoor swimming pool with snack bar was very popular and for the smaller kids an indoor heated pool for colder days. We could see why this was so great for families.Staff patrolled constantly in electric golf buggies to make sure all was in order, and special machines harvested the mosquitos from the lagoons. There were black winged stilt nesting on the lagoon next to us.

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Funnily enough, despite its popularity with families we had a really quiet and chilled out break there. There was plenty of space for everyone.

We had a sunny weekend, maximising the BBQ – burgers, beef kebabs, local sausage, home-made chicken tikka kebabs. Had BBC and caught up with the news as well as watching the UK weather forecast which made us feel good.

Having paid for internet access we now knew the weather was going to change on Monday so planned a cycle ride to the weekly market at Serignan about 4km away. Up early we were at the market for breakfast – pain-au-chocolat and strong coffee.

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Wandered round this proper little working town, observing the men drinking coffee outside the petanque club cafe-bar who were in turn observing the market and its bustle.  Lovely fresh vegetables, a whole stall devoted to horse-meat – we just didn’t know which cut to try – and another that sold chinese food and ingredients – huge dumplings, spring rolls, wontons, an array of sauces and vats of pre-cooked chinese meals one of which looked suspiciously like sweet and sour.

Time to move on to Valras-Plage which a leaflet said was a small fishing port and marina. Sounded great. Lost the cycle path but got there in the end and not quite what we expected. Vaguely reminiscent of british seaside towns – full of beach shops, cafes, the occasional amusement arcade – you get the picture. We did do a good cycle round but didn’t find the fishing boats. The beach however was huge and I’m sure that on a hot, sunny day in season the place would have a different vibe. Today it felt a bit sad – open but struggling to make a living.

Danny did find himself a pair of Daniel Craig swimming shorts, but Kate couldn’t bring herself to take her warm down jacket off long enough to try on one of the cheap and pretty summer dresses. We had seen a restaurant on the outskirts that looked popular with the locals so decided to give it a go. Good move. Danny had an excellent squid dish and Kate a huge portion of moules-frite, the frites being thin slices of crispy fried potato which were delicious.

Having established that the ferry we had been intending to take to get home wasn’t running until June, we located the cycle path to Serignan and started back. It was much nicer than the way out, passing along a river bank and through reeds, wildflowers and  vines. We saw a kestrel eating a baby bunny and a snake slithered across our path. An allotments on the outskirts of Serignan was beautifully tended with very modern sheds. One of the plots re-used plastic bottles to form path edging which was novel.

Back home along the pretty River L’Orb to complete our 20-mile excursion.

That night we ordered their ‘award winning’ take-away pizza cycling down to collect. They were very good pizzas – even Danny’s cheese-free one – and we both ate far too much of them.

Another night we succumbed to the lure of a huge chicken and seafood paella outside the fish-shop and got a take-away. Unfortunately we didn’t check – it was stone cold and we weren’t sure whether to re-heat it and if so, how to do so safely. It was pouring down by now and past the closing time of the fish shop. Given the quantity of seafood in it including mussels, prawns and clams, and our previous experience of seafood poisoning, we decided that caution was the better part of valour and bagged it up for the bin. What a tragic waste.

On Thursday night we had to decide whether to stay or move, and given the forecast we decided to move on. While at Serignan-Plage we had received the updated “All the Aires of France” books we had had delivered to Mark & Jan and which Jan had kindly posted on to us. We determined to try out an Aire de Camping Car for our next stop in our progress south and settled on Gruissan Port as it had the added advantage of a shower.

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